Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland
January 24th, 1918.
My dear Admiral,
Yesterday afternoon the Inter-Allied Council finished its discussion. A large part of the sitting was taken up with the organization and method of procedure and with the establishment of the secretariat and so forth. The necessary information for deciding a number of questions was of course not available from all the different countries, but committees have been formed to get together and collate this information for the next meeting which will take place before very long.
A number of important decisions were made. One was that each country concerned will have a naval representative on the Inter Allied War Council at Versailles, so as to keep the soldiers at all times informed of everything that want to know regarding nautical affairs, and to keep us informed of any measures which they recommend which would require the cooperation of naval forces.
It was also decided that the naval council and the military council should arrange for a joint meeting at an early date to talk over the general situation and thereby bring out the points in which there is likely to be cooperation between the two xxxxxx. services.
This naval council was peculiar in this respect, that Great Britain and the United States were the only countries represented who have anything to give. That is, who are in a position to supply any considerable quantity of food stuffs, raw material, and so forth The consequence is, that we were regarded, as Admiral Wemyss, said, rather as milk cows and the other chaps as calves. However, I think we had a fairly square military discussion.
The most troublesome question was that of the demand<s> of Italy. Her demands for naval assistance were based not exclusively on the anti-submarine campaign, but also upon the political aspects of her situation. Apparently they fear very greatly any demonstrations against any port along the coastline which can be used by the pacifists, and so forth, against the Government. As the conference was not in possession of all of the necessary elements for a decision, it was decided to appoint a Committee to go to Italy and to examine the situation on the spot, including the situation in the Adriatic, the Otranto barrage, and so forth. Each one of the nations represented will send a representative and this body will report to the Council at its next meeting. I do not see how I can escape being a member of this council, as I have no officer of suitable rank to send in my place. Moreover, the Italians are now, and have been for some months, very insistent that some of our naval officers pay them a visit. As one of them said, we have had few military people down in Italy except those connected with the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A., so it is probable that within ten days or so I will be off to Italy, and probably will not be back again for at least ten days.
The conference was particularly interesting in bringing out from each one of the representatives his general idea of the situation and the amount and nature of the forces that they had supplied. The French were particularly fine in insisting that all questions of the nationality of merchant ships being attacked should be eliminated in favor of making use of our entire naval forces for the protection of the ships of the Allies and for making war upon the submarine itself. They are guided in this respect by the French Chief of Staff, Admiral De Bon, who has really excited the admiration and respect of all of us. A committee has been apointed to bring out all of the facts concerning the employment of all of the vessels concerned and to dig out all of the facts in connection with the anti-submarine campaign and to have all of this ready with their tentative secondary conclusions to lay on the table at the next meeting.
It was an encouraging feature of the whole discussion that all hands have insisted upon using every possible means to make war upon the submarine itself.
You will be interested to know that the question I mentioned to you about the best way to utilize the man power of America on the Western Front is now up for very serious consideration. It has evidently been presented on the other side with very considerable force because the Chief of our War Staff, who has recently passed through London, and who is a Member of the Allied War Council is of the opinion that we should utilize this man power in the way indicated in our discussion when I was at Queenstown; he believes that if we persist in the original scheme of organizing a large army based upon new ports, with adequate means of transportation and so forth, that our army could not be made effective until 1919. The whole matter will come before the Allied War Council and be considered by the Prime Ministers of the countries most concerned and doubtless a decision will be forthcoming before long. I don’t see how this decision can be anything much different from what we believe it should be.
In this connection if the decision is made as indicated above, it will change to a certain extent the employment of our various groups of destroyers. According to the General, the schemes would be not to proceed with the development of the facilities in the ports on the west coast of France, but to let them remain as they are, and to use these ports for the supply of the troops already in there and for the supply of their reinforcements, and to divert the tonnage which is now carrying in all equipment and installation for handling a big army, to the bringing of troops in to the western ports of the British Isles in order that they may be passed through the British camps to the Western Front.
If this is the decision it will mean that there will be few army convoys going into the west coast of France and consequently that these can be handled only by the destroyers now based on France with the possible addition of a certain number from Queenstown.
On the other hand, there would be more troop convoys coming in either to the north or the south of Ireland, and provision would have to be made to escort these additional convoys. However, this is a bridge that does not need to be crossed until we get to it.
Very sincerely yours,